Pasta with Cauliflower, Olives, & Oregano

For better or worse, 2016 is coming to an end.  I know I’ve been feeling all the feels lately, but I’ll keep things nice and cozy here with some pasta featuring the year’s most popular vegetable, cauliflower– which has been everywhere and everything.  I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I haven’t tried cauliflower in any of its more trendy, experimental forms, but plan to remedy that soon with these buffalo wings, this pizza, and these steaks with romesco sauce.  Yep, cauliflower is one intriguing, can-do brassica oleracea.  Here, its mellow sweetness is complemented by garlic, kalamata olives, toasted almonds, and aromatic fresh oregano.
*I’ve been so excited that my local nataural foods store started carrying gluten free farfalle.  If you buy/eat gluten free pasta with any frequency you know that gluten free bowties are something of a unicorn. Jovial also makes gluten free casarecce and manicotti (!).  Get it.

12 oz pasta (farfalle, penne, fusilli, etc.)
olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 head of cauliflower, trimmed, cored, and cut into bite size chunks
1 cup vegetable broth
2-3 sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves only, chopped
¼ cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted
salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes, to taste

  • Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.
  • Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a large pan/wok.  Add garlic and a pinch of red pepper and cook over medium heat, agitating frequently, for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.
  • Stir in cauliflower and then the broth.  Cover, turn up heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes.  Stir in oregano and olives.
  • Add pasta to the pan, season with salt and pepper and, if desired, drizzle with a bit more olive oil.  Sprinkle on toasted almonds and serve.

Yield: About 5 servings

Spicy Cabbage & Tofu with Peanuts

spicy cabbage and tofu with peanuts

Fresh cabbage is not something I typically buy.  For me, it usually conjures images of sad plops of diner coleslaw and The Kids in the Hall.  When shopping I pass right by those pale green heads (and even the purple ones) in favor of darker leafy things like kale and chard, or more exciting things like tatsoi and romanesco.  Still, the beautiful varieties at the farmer’s market piqued my interest and made me reconsider.  Stir-fried with ginger, garlic, peanuts, tofu, and hot sesame oil, cabbage is totally delicious– and not at all reminiscent of coleslaw.  I’m craving some right now.
*I thought this was spicy!  Not too spicy with rice, though.  And perfect if your head gets extra stuffy this time of year like mine does.  Of course Philip added hot sauce anyway. If you prefer a less spicy dish, reduce the amount of hot sesame oil or cut with some toasted sesame oil.  For a totally mild dish, replace completely with toasted sesame oil.

cone cabbage  shredded cabbagetofu

For tofu:
1 block extra-firm tofu
½ tbsp grapeseed or other hot cooking oil (peanut, canola, refined coconut, etc.)
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp coconut sugar
½ tbsp tamari

For everything else:
1-1½ tsp grapeseed or other hot cooking oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 medium head of cabbage, trimmed of outer leaves and core, cut into thin shreds
1 tbsp tamari
½ tbsp rice wine vinegar
½ tsp hot sesame oil
¼ cup peanuts (I used roasted and salted)
Rice, for serving

  • Pat tofu with a clean tea towel or paper towel. Cut into 1” cubes, then pat again to soak up extra moisture.
  • Heat ½ tbsp grapeseed oil over medium-high heat. Add tofu cubes, sprinkle with garlic powder and coconut sugar, and stir gently to distribute seasonings. Then let cook—without touching– for about 3-4 minutes, or until golden and a bit crispy. Carefully flip over (turn down the heat while you do this) and splash with ½ tbsp tamari. Cook for 3-4 minutes more. Turn off burner and transfer tofu to another dish. Let the pan cool a bit and then give it a wipe to remove any blackened bits.
  • Heat 1-1½ tsp grapeseed (or other) oil in pan over medium heat, and add the garlic and ginger. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant.
  • Stir in cabbage. Splash with a tiny bit of water and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring as needed. Add tamari and rice wine vinegar and cook for a couple minutes more.
  • Add the tofu, peanuts, and hot sesame oil, and cook for another minute or two. Taste for seasonings and serve with rice.

Yield: About 3-4 servings

cabbage

Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Ginger Miso Dressing

Black-eyed pea salad with ginger miso dressing

It’s been a helluva week, to say the least.  Salad might not exactly be the most obvious comfort food, but having a big batch in the fridge certainly helps make lunchtime easier (and healthier).  This one is earthy, crunchy, full of spice and umami warmth, with bright herbal notes.  Black-eyed peas are often eaten on New Year’s Day as a good luck food; I say we take all the good luck we can get.

black eyed pea salad ingredients

Obviously we can’t rely on luck alone. I don’t care if I’m bringing politics into a place where it doesn’t belong because A) it’s my blog and I do what I want, and B) what’s happening goes way beyond liberal and conservative and into the realm of right and very, very, very wrong.  None of this is normal or okay, and we must remain vigilant. We need to seek out reliable news sources and stay informed.  We need to be active.  We need to stand up to bigotry and hold our leaders accountable.  We need to help out where we can and support organizations that do good work (Jezebel posted a pretty comprehensive list, to which I would add NRDC).  Stay strong, friends.

Black-eyed peas

3 cups cooked black-eyed peas, if canned then rinsed & drained
1-2 radishes, sliced into thin half-moons
1 cucumber, sliced into thin half-moons
1 scallion (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
3 tbsp mellow white miso
1 tbsp grated ginger
1½ tbsp olive oil
1½ tbsp water
handful of parsley, chopped
salt (if needed; miso is salty) & black pepper, to taste

  • To make the dressing, whisk together the miso, ginger, olive oil, and water.
  • Toss the black-eyed peas, radish, cucumber, and scallion together with the dressing, stirring to coat evenly.  Gently mix in most of the parsley, saving a little bit for sprinkling on the top, and season to taste.  Garnish with remaining parsley.

Yield: About 6 servings

Black-eyed pea salad with ginger miso dressing

Vanilla Maple Tahini Truffles

vanilla maple tahini truffles

Recently I went out west.  It had been a really (reallllly) long time since I had been on a real trip anywhere, and I relished every moment.  First Philip and I went back to 95 degree summer weather in Austin, TX.  We wandered through an enchanted park, explored a cavern full of stalactites and stalagmites and tiny sleeping bats, ate delicious breakfast tacos from a food trailer (check!), visited the flagship Whole Foods (I know… but it is actually really cool), hung out on a rooftop with a friend from home, visited the capitol building, marveled at grackles, drank delicious coffee and juice, and interacted with friendly locals who would not seem at all out of place in a Linklater movie.  Then it was on to Los Angeles, a city which had long been on my list of places to visit.  Ever since I was Weetzie Bat books loving kid, I dreamed of LA’s hills and canyons, its punks and starlets, its purple jacaranda trees and old Shangri-LA magic.  Now that my friend Charles was getting married at the Malibu West Beach Club, I had an excuse to go.  And while I wasn’t crazy about all the driving and big box/chain stores everywhere, I was indeed enamored with pretty much everything else: the dessert hills juxtaposed with the blue Pacific, the coyote we saw one night casually trotting across the street, colorful flowers and equally colorful homes, teetering palm trees, winding roads, charming plant-enveloped alleys, the incredible architecture and landscaping of the Getty Center, dreamy Mulholland Drive, the PCH… I want to go back!  Best of all I got to spend time with dear friends at a truly lovely celebration.  The day after the wedding, we checked out of our hotel, got some iced coffees, and went back to Malibu Beach.  After soaking the bottoms of our jeans (despite our best cuffing efforts), we decided it was warm enough to go all the way in the water and besides, when was the next time we’d get to go swimming in the Pacific?  We changed into our bathing suits in the car and took turns holding the car keys while the other went in the water.  Then it was fries from In-N-Out, a quick drive through Echo Park, and finally LAX, where we returned the car and waited around for our after midnight flight home.  Naturally it took us some time to get back into the groove of things.  (I literally did not know where I was when I woke up in my own bed the next day.)  And the erratic weather– 80 something degrees and sunny followed by total blustery cold dreariness and full on fall– certainly didn’t help.  Still, home is where the cat is.  And the seasons, too.

tahini ballschopped dark chocolate

These vanilla maple tahini truffles are perfectly autumnal and so tasty.  They’re easy to make, too, unless you count the waiting parts.  I’m pretty crazy for tahini and maple syrup (see my recipe for vanilla maple tahini spread)– so much so that sometimes I’ll skip the mixing and simply heap the two ingredients precariously onto a spoon and then shovel it directly into my mouth while standing over the sink.  Because you know, dishes.  Anyway, it was only a matter of time until chocolate entered the mix.  These truffles are sweet and salty and feel just indulgent enough, the kind of treat I think we could all use right about now, wherever we are.

½ cup tahini
heaped 1½ tbsp maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
1½ tbsp refined coconut oil, melted, plus another scant 1/8 tsp
1/16 tsp fine sea salt
one 3.2 oz bar of dark chocolate, chopped
bit of flaky sea salt

  • Use a food processor to mix tahini, maple syrup, vanilla, and fine sea salt until well combined, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary. With the machine running, slowly pour in the melted 1½ tbsp coconut oil and process until smooth. Transfer to a dish and freeze, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, or until firm but not totally frozen.
  • Line a plate with parchment paper. Use your hands to roll tahini mixture into balls, approximately 1” in diameter, and set on the lined plate. Freeze for 25 minutes.
  • Melt chocolate with scant 1/8 tsp coconut oil in a double boiler over low heat, stirring frequently. Alternatively, melt in the microwave in short increments. Once melted, remove chocolate from heat. One at a time, drop each tahini ball into the chocolate and use a fork to roll it around, then gently lift and let excess chocolate drip back down through the fork tines. Place back on parchment lined plate and sprinkle with a little flaky salt. Freeze for 10 minutes, then transfer to a container and store in the refrigerator.

Yield: About 15 truffles

vanilla maple tahini truffles

Pasta with Roasted Fairytale Eggplants & Peppers

pasta with fairytale eggplants and peppers

When I made this for dinner a few nights ago, Phil told me it was “very fall.”  While cooking, I had thought I had been making a very summery meal–eggplants! peppers! fresh basil and mint!– yet had to agree that my hot bowl of pasta full of roasted things was pretty damn cozy.  Even the fact that I had turned the oven on at all was evidence of the seasonal shift.  To be sure, this is a transitional dish, showcasing late summer’s abundant harvest while gently easing us into fall’s rhythms and encouraging us to slow down– even if for just a bit.
*To smash the garlic, peel each clove and pressed down gently but firmly (and very carefully!) with the side of a chef’s knife, taking care not to break the clove completely.

13 or so fairytale eggplants, stemmed and halved
2-3 red peppers (I used 3 not too big frying ones), cut into 1-1½” pieces
1 small red onion, diced medium
2 garlic cloves, gently smashed
1½-2 tbsp olive oil (enough to evenly coat vegetables)
1 12 oz package of pasta
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ cup basil, chopped
½ cup mint, chopped
sea salt and black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Toss vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and spread evenly on a roasting pan.  Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring once half way through, until vegetables are tender and browning around the edges.  Remove from oven.
  • Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.  Just before draining, reserve about a ¼ cup of the pasta water (use a mug with a handle to scoop directly from the pot).  Drain pasta.
  • To the pasta, add the tomato paste, vinegar, and pasta water and stir to combine.  Then mix in the roasted vegetables, breaking the garlic with your spoon.  Season with salt and pepper, and top with basil and mint.

Yield: About 4 servings